Coursera makes courses available for free to the unemployed

Jon Fingas
Associate Editor
BERLIN, GERMANY - FEBRUARY 04: Symbol photo. A man is typing with his hands on a keyboard of a MacBook Pro on February 04, 2020 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Felix Zahn/Photothek via Getty Images)

Coursera is opening access to its online education in a bid to help those newly unemployed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Gizmodo notes the service has made 3,800 courses and 400 specializations available for free through government agencies hoping to find jobs for residents. The courses teach top-level skills like business writing and job paths like app development, and you’ll find professional certificates from companies like Google, IBM and SAS.

Organizations have until September 30th to enroll workers, who themselves will have until the end of 2020 to complete their courses. Arizona, Illinois and Oklahoma will be the first states to offer courses in the US, while countries like Colombia, Costa Rica, Greece, Malaysia, Panama, Ukraine and Uzbekistan have followed suit abroad. In addition to expanding the number of states and countries, Coursera is also looking at offering courses through non-governmental organizations on a “case-by-case basis.”

Kaplan, Udacity and others are also offering their own free training resources in light of the pandemic.

This is a goodwill gesture when a program like this normally costs $399 per year, but there’s also a strong incentive for Coursera. It boosts interest in the regular government program, and success with the strategy (known as the Coursera Workforce Recovery Initiative) could lead to the freshly employed seeking out additional courses on their own. Whatever the motivations, there are still plenty of challenges ahead. Agencies will need to ensure that job seekers have easy access to the courses, and ideally help them connect with companies that have open positions.